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American System-Built Home, Frank Lloyd Wright, history

It’s Almost Here! Buy Our Book about The Meier House and American System-Built Homes!

07/05/2021
This American House - The Book!

We recently got our mitts on a copy of our forthcoming book, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes, and It. Is. Gorgeous. We consider ourselves fortunate to have worked with the talented editors and designers at Pomegranate. They were a dream team throughout the journey – even when a global pandemic and supply chain issues popped up along the way! We submitted our manuscript and a giant file of images back in July of 2019 and the team at Pomegranate produced a beautiful book that makes us proud.

Holding the book is especially sweet because it was a long, long journey to get it into print. First, of course, was the research. When we bought the Meier House in 2013, we immediately dived into researching the American System-Built Home project and gathering the history of our little piece of it. We interviewed former owners, searched through the Wright archives at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, compared notes with other ASBH owners and spent countless hours scrolling through blogs, websites and library records. We shared some of our findings here on the blog over the years but we always had an eye toward collecting the history in a book.

We went on to sign a book contract with Pomegranate in 2018. The time had finally come to sort through all the information we had collected over the years and form it into a manuscript. As we did so, we identified the five chapters of what would become the This American House book:

  • An American Plan: An overview of the American System-Built Homes project and where they sit in Frank Lloyd Wright’s canon of work.
  • A Home in a Prairie Town: The story of Delbert and Grace Meier, the colorful couple who built this American System-Built Home, and their connection to Northeast Iowa.
  • This American House: A snapshot of how the Meiers built a Model M202 in 1917 Iowa.
  • If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the families who called the Meier House their home.
  • The Accidental Archivists: How a couple from Chicago (that’s us!) found their way to a 100-year-old house and what they’re doing to preserve it.

It took us a little over six months to write the manuscript and collect all the images we wanted to include. That meant obtaining images from libraries and other resources, photographing every standing American System-Built Home and working with former owners to find old photos of our house. It also meant finishing a slew of projects at the Meier House so we could get interior and exterior photos that would be included in the book.

When we submitted all the materials in summer of 2019, we were expecting a 2020 book release. Oh but the world had other ideas! As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, it also put a pause on the publishing industry. The folks at Pomegranate very wisely decided to push back release of our book by a year. We were disappointed (naturally!) but considering what we all endured in 2020, it didn’t seem like something we had any right to complain about.

But now, almost three years after signing the contract, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes is finally here! Well, almost. The book is scheduled for release on July 15, 2021 … but now we’re experiencing some shipping issues that may cause a slight delay. In the meantime, you can pre-order the book from Amazon or your favorite local bookstore.

We can’t wait for you all to hold This American House in your hands! Stay tuned for book excerpts and behind-the-scenes stories as we excitedly await its release.

American System-Built Home, architecture, history, house tour

VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE MEIER HOUSE: HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN SYSTEM-BUILT HOME

05/17/2021

Have you ever gazed at the walls of your home and wondered what lives they’ve beheld? We have. In nearly every home we’ve shared over our twenty-year relationship, we’ve pondered aloud about the lives that existed within the space. And then we bought an old house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his American System-Built Homes, an early 20th century pre-fab project, and our curiosity got the best of us. As it turns out, these walls can talk. And we’ve been listening.

When we bought our American System Built-Home in 2013, we entered into a relationship not only with the house but its former inhabitants as well. At the time, there was scant information about Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur Richards’ early-20th century ready-made housing plan. To learn about American System Built-Homes, we went to official sources – like the Avery Library, where all 900+ original ASB drawings are cataloged. But to learn about our house, a Model M202 known as the Delbert and Grace Meier House, we turned to local experts – the people who used to call it home. Collecting former homeowner stories and learning the history of Wright’s ready-built home scheme may have eventually led to our upcoming book, but we didn’t start out with such grand ambitions.

We initially set out to simply satisfy our own curiosity. How did this American System-Built Home end up being constructed in small town Iowa? Who were the people who made this house a home over its 100+ year history? How has the house changed over that period? We had questions and, as we often do, we went in search of answers. We didn’t have a book in mind when we started out. But we did assume that the more information we collected, the better we could represent our house to fans of Wright’s architecture who frequently contact us (or visit) for information.

The people we met and the information we gathered tell a wonderful story – not just about the house but its inhabitants. This video tour provides a brief overview of the history of the Delbert and Grace Meier House, its owners and the changes that have occurred over its long history. It includes photos of the house and its owners dating back to the 1920s along with the modern snapshots that reveal the progress we’ve been in our time as stewards.

To get the full story of this marvelous old house, order a copy of our book: This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and The American System-Built Homes.

DIY, how to, kitchen, making do

Home hack: Never Refill the Dish Soap Dispenser Again!

03/29/2021
In-Sink Soap Dispenser Hack - Never Refill It Again!

When we gave the kitchen a facelift and installed a new countertop and sink, I was excited to add a built-in dish soap dispenser. As a minimalist at heart, I looked forward to not having a bottle of dish soap sitting on the counter next to the sink. How easy it will be to push the integrated pump and dispense dish soap directly into the sink! And it really is convenient … until the dispenser bottle under the sink needs to be refilled. When that happens, all thoughts of minimalism and daily convenience are replaced by frustration as I climb under the sink to remove and then replace the little bottle that seems to only hold a few dozen pumps of soap. Removing that little bottle is easy, of course. Screwing the bottle back into the fitting under the sink? That’s some sort of torture!

Well my days of climbing under the sink are over! With the addition of a simple rubber hose, I can replace that tiny dispensing bottle with a giant jug of dish soap. Screw that little bottle! Or, rather, never screw that bottle back into the sink again! And all it took was a few feet of latex tubing. Specifically, latex tubing with 1/4″ inner diameter and 3/4″ exterior diameter – found at your local hardware store. I purchased a 10 foot coil of tubing because that’s what I found on the rack at the Lowes where I was shopping. I used only 3-ish feet of the tubing but am happy to have enough leftover to fix the pump back at the city apartment, too. If you can buy your latex tubing by the foot, get only as much as you need. But if you happen to buy extra, offer to use the remainder that save your friends from screwing the bottle.

But before you can go out and help your friends, you’ll need to know how to do it, right? OK, so here goes…

Standing at the sink, remove the pump. It should be as easy as pulling up on the pump – the entire thing, the pump and existing tube, should remove easily. Now, slip one end of the latex tubing over the end of the soap pump tube.

Place the pump, with tube attached, in the receptacle in the sink. Now, let this be the last time you climb under the sink. While you’re down there, snip the end of the latex tubing where it meets the bottom of the under-sink cabinet.

Remove the cap from that extra large bottle of dish soap that you’ve been using to refill the measly little bottle that came with the dispenser. Place the latex tubing into that large bottle of dish soap.

And there you have it. In just a few simple steps you’ve created a workaround that will eliminate the need to ever refill that little soap pump dispenser bottle again! It may take a number of pumps before the soap works its way through the latex tube and out the dispenser, but once it does you’re good to go.

Happy washing!

American System-Built Home, architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, history

Coming Soon: The This American House Book!

02/14/2021

We’re thrilled to announce the forthcoming release of our book, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes! Beautifully published by Pomegranate and due out on July 15th, the book provides an historical overview of Wright’s overlooked American System-Built Homes project of the 1910s. Our home, the Meier House, is one of the few existing examples of this early effort of Wright’s to provide affordable but architecturally distinctive housing for the middle class. Our book, This American House, chronicles the storied history of the Meier House and our efforts to steward this early 20th century Prairie style gem into the 21st century.

We look forward to sharing the book with you soon! 

House vs. Home: New book revisits Frank Lloyd Wright’s work through the lives of its inhabitants

This American House follows authors Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber, owners of the Meier House, as they trace its history through previous owners.

PORTLAND, Ore., January 25, 2021 — Pomegranate has published dozens of architecture books throughout its over-50-year history, several featuring Frank Lloyd Wright and his work. Their upcoming release takes a different approach to how we view architecture: how buildings change with the people who live in them and the role homeowners take on in exchange. In This American House, Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber—husbands, authors and current owners of the Meier House—explore that interconnectedness with enthusiasm and empathy.

2020 saw people across the world spending more time in their homes than ever before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Families held off going out to eat or on vacation, and many began working and schooling from home. As a result, the way we interacted with our homes on a daily basis changed.

“A living room is no longer just a living room; it’s an office, a classroom and a playground all-in-one,” says Cory Mimms, publisher at Pomegranate. “Many of us used to live parts of our lives at home: the intimate moments of getting ready for school or work, sharing meals, going to bed. Now, we are living every aspect of our identity in the same space, whether that’s spouse or parent, friend or coworker or even activist. Inevitably, that changes the feelings we have about where we live.”

When Loper and Schreiber set out to buy a home several years ago, they certainly didn’t envision one suited to a pandemic, nor did they picture buying one with a pedigree. In fact, they had imagined a cozy getaway cabin not far from their life in Chicago. What they got instead was a big house in a small town and one of the few American System-Built Homes constructed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs. In doing so, they took on not just a mortgage, but also a long history of stewardship, ushering the house into a new period of time while retaining its original meaning and charm.

Inspired by that history, the two began compiling a record of their experiences, those of the previous residents and the role of the American System-Built Homes within Wright’s oeuvre. Featuring over 120 photographs and architectural drawings, This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes will be available this July.

Pre-order your copy on Amazon or contact your favorite local bookstore to order it!

American System-Built Home, Frank Lloyd Wright, history

American System Built Homes: A Complete List of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Early Prefab Homes

02/10/2021

Burnham Street Two Flats

*This list was updated February 2021. We will continue to add American System-Built Homes to this page as they are discovered and verified.

When most people think of Frank Lloyd Wright they think of his impressive roster of spectacular custom designed homes. But Wright was also an early proponent of design for the masses. While his Usonian homes might be more commonly known, Wright was dabbling in prefab as early as the nineteen-teens. By 1915 Wright had partnered with Milwaukee builder Arthur Richards to create what would come to be known as American System Built Homes. The venture was interrupted by the United States’ entry into World War I (as well as infighting between Richards and Wright) but not before a number of ASB homes were built in the midwest. How many were built? We’re not sure, actually. There are a few ASB homes that have been demolished over the years and some others that are still being discovered.

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